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Mental Skills Training

More recently (as in the last 4-5 years) there has been more emphasis in the sporting community on mental skills training. A lot of big names have been talking about working more with sports psychologists to improve their game. The big question is “What is Mental Skills Training?” and the question which arises from that is why is it so important? This is part one of a series, keep checking back for the other parts.

Sports Psychology 101

Mental Skills training (MST) also known as Performance Skills training (PST) is basically used to describe the programme of psychological training to equip an athlete to perform to their best DELIBERATELY! So where do you start with all of this? I think the best place to start is to recognise what your ideal performance state looks like and then work to achieve that level of arousal before every opportunity to perform. So what is the ideal performance state?

The Ideal Performance State

The Ideal Performance State (IPS) is that mood, feeling or state in which an athlete (you) feel totally focused both mentally and physically on your performance and confident you will perform to your best. It’s like being on auto pilot.

The following skills have been identified in elite athletes:

  • Mental preparation, mental readiness (control activation)

  • Complete concentration on the task at hand (concentration)

  • A high degree of self-confidence (confidence)

  • High motivation and determination to do well in their sport (commitment)

  • Ability to control activation and anxiety (activation control)

  • Ability to cope with pressure and anxiety (cope with pressure)

Collectively these skills represent the Ideal Performance State. However these skills are not just for elite athletes; any athlete performing to their best/full physical ability is performing in an Ideal Performance State

“It was a type of euphoria; I felt I could run all day without tiring, that I could dribble through any of their team or all of them, that I could almost pass through them physically, I felt that I could not be hurt. It was a very strange feeling and one I had never felt before. Perhaps it was merely c onfidence but I have felt confident many times without that feeling of invincibility” – Pele

This mental state training is designed to help you get to you Ideal Performance State on a regular basis. So the programme is directed at identifying your particular IPS then helping you to reach it more often.

Goal Setting

It is important to understand the difference between task (process-focus) goals and outcome (win-focus) goals and the enormous impact these goals have on performance. You must work hard to develop a task goal orientation, since these goals are related to the skills in which you the athlete must be competent in order to perform well, and are goals which you have control over.

The eight C’s of peak performance; ‘tough stuff’

  • Concept

  • Confidence

  • Commitment

  • Control of activation (psych-up)

  • Cope with pressure and anxiety

  • Concentration

  • Communication (especially for team sports)

  • Cohesion (for tem sports)

MST is designed to help you deliberately switch on your auto-pilot but not intended to overcomplicate your performance

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